The Glover House

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2005,
Summer 2005
Original Images:




Author: Steve Pierce and Maggie Brandt

Due to its historical and architectural significance, the Glover House at 118 South Washington Street has been recognized as an important Ypsilanti building. It was listed in the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites in 1979 and is in the Ypsilanti Historic District. In 2002 it was nominated by Michigan State Register of Historic Sites for its unique and well preserved Stained Glass Windows.

This ten room house, including five bedrooms, is about 3,900 sq. ft. and was designed by noted Detroit Architects Malcomson and Higgenbothum. The attention to detail lavished on the house is still obvious today. Architecturally speaking, the house is an excellent example of the Queen Anne style popular in the last decades of the 19th century. The visual complexities of the exterior massing and detailing produce a picturesque quality much admired in the late Victorian period. This is evidenced in the many projecting features of the exterior such as the porches, dormers, chimneys, bay windows, and turret. Also characteristic of the style is the horizontal layering of the textures and surfaces created by the stone foundation, wood siding, shingles, continuous bands at the window sills and heads, and the slate roofing all stacked one on top of the other.

On the interior, the late-Victorian predilection of ornament is lavishly fulfilled throughout Glover House. European craftsmen did much of the handwork, including ornamental plaster, frescoing, tile work, and woodwork. Almost every room is trimmed in different wood including: birds eye maple, oak, mahogany, birch, ash, butternut, sycamore, cherry, chestnut, and pine. This use of different wood species to create distinct themes in each room is splendid. The sheer complexity of the minute detail evident in the woodwork throughout the house is exceptional. Swag details are repeated from room to room, and even carried outside along the eaves and rails of the home. Hand carved wood details are throughout the home, some of it so delicate, it had to be attached with needles. The original hand-rubbed piano finish wood most visible in the dining room is over 100-years old and is still in perfect condition.

All of the stained and leaded glass windows are complete and in wonderful condition. There are two ceiling frescoes in the music room and dining room. Gesso plaster can be seen in the entryway and stairs, and the main bathroom on the second floor. Parquet floors were used throughout the first floor with each room having a unique pattern. There are five elaborate fireplaces and three chimneys. Four fireplaces are on the first floor and the Master Bedroom on the second floor has a fireplace.

History-Part 1: What many people call the H. P. Glover Mansion may have for years been calling it the wrong name. Though some accounts suggest that H. P. was involved in the day to day details of its construction, more credible history points to H. P.'s son Charles actually taking the lead in the construction of this home. But even this house was not the first house built on this lot.

The pioneer house built at 118 S. Washington was built by Dr. Parmenio and Carlista Showerman Davis on land he bought on April 2, 1850. Dr. Davis also built the home directly north of the Glover House at 112 S. Washington in 1845 which remains today as one of the oldest occupied private residences in the city. In 1858, when Ypsilanti became a city, Dr. Davis was alderman of the First Ward, and in 1861, he was elected Mayor, holding the office for two years. He was again elected Mayor in 1868 and for a third term in 1870.

As Dr. Davis was a leading figure in Ypsilanti, there is every indication that this home had exceptional appointments, especially since the next purchaser, New York banker and investor Simeon T. Keith and his wife Harriet A. Allen, found it to their liking. Though built by Dr. Davis, most historians call this original house the Keith House. The Keith House was a frame structure, possibly of Greek revival architecture. Mr. Keith died April 4, 1875 and left the home to his wife. Mrs. Keith died shortly before February 1892. That is when the Glovers arrive on the scene.

Mr. Henry P. Glover was a successful businessman, banker and was even once mayor of Ypsilanti in the early 1890's. Henry P. and Nancy J. Glover lived one block east of this house on the northwest corner of Huron and Woodward. H. P. Glover owned a dry goods store in the 1870's and made his fortune in the 1880's in partnership with Enoch Bowling who had patented a perspiration proof dress stay in 1885. The Ypsilanti Dress Stay Manufacturing Co. employed 170 girls and in two years, the sales amounted to $300,000 and an annual payroll of $30,000. The Ypsilanti Dress Stay Manufacturing Co. was shipping more goods than any other concern in Ypsilanti. Henry P. Glover was also a director in the Ypsilanti Savings Bank, which is today Ypsilanti City Hall.

History-Part 2: Charles W. Glover bought Lot 57 and the south half of Lot 58 on February 1, 1892 and on May 11 bought the north half of Lot 58, evidently to provide an adequate site for the new house. Charles apparently began building immediately after purchase of the site and had it well underway when his marriage to Oriska Worden took place on October 20, 1892.

An account of the wedding appears in the October 21, 1892 Ypsilanti Commercial. It reads: “Charles W. Glover of this city and Miss Oriska Worden, a well-known society young lady and graduate of the Normal Conservatory of Music, were quietly married Thursday afternoon, October 20, at a church in Petoskey. They will make their home with Mr. and Mrs. H. P. Glover for a few weeks until the completion of the groom's handsome new residence on Washington Street. A host of Ypsilanti friends wish the newly married pair much happiness.”

The talents of the bride were quickly appreciated and on October 28, 1892, it was announced that Mrs. Glover would appear in the leading role of “The Pirates of Penzance” at the local opera house. However, turmoil was brewing.

The home was completed in 1893 but not before the Opera House and Cleary College were destroyed by a tornado, which rolled won Michigan Avenue. Glover House was completed at a cost of over $32,000. Newspaper reports, at the time, said the cost was the same as the Methodist Church on North Washington completed that same year. Today, it would be well over $1 million dollars.

Charles ran into financial troubles and by May 4, 1894, he was unable to pay a mortgage on the house. Through a sheriff's deed, title passed to Mary A. Starkweather, long time Ypsilanti patron and philanthropist. A year later on May 7, 1895, Charles' dad, Henry P. and Charles' brother, Hal W., provided a loan, which apparently met a lien, and Mrs. Starkweather provided additional financing through a new mortgage.

In the meantime, Charles' marriage ended in divorce and he married Ida May Foss on March 15, 1895, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The day before Christmas in 1897, Charles and his new wife received title to the home. During this time, Charles was manager of the Michigan Manufacturing Company at the northwest corner of Babbitt and Grove Streets where they did machine work.

We know little of Charles later life and we are unsure who lived in the house at the turn of the century. Local newspaper accounts note that Henry P. Glover died in the house in early 1914. We do know that the house was put up for auction in the summer of 1914. An original Auction poster from 1914 hangs in the dining room today and is a must read for anyone touring the home. It was a gift from the grandchildren of the Dixon's to welcome Maggie and Steve to the community when the grandchildren learned of the purchase of the home in 2000.

The house was sold to Frederick. M. and Emily A. Beall on June 26, 1914. Again, some historians have incorrectly reported this date as 1941 but we believe they in-correctly inverted the dates. Mr. Beall was, like Charles' dad, a dry goods merchant and he died on January 24, 1928. The will of his widow was entered in probate on January 9, 1945, and the administrator sold the house to Genevieve M. Lewright for $11,500.

Irving E. and Theone S. Dixon purchased the house on January 23, 1946 and lived in the home raising two children until 1966. At that time, the house was transferred to Child and Family Services and Mr. and Mrs. Dixon lived in a room in the basement until 1969 when the house was eventually sold to Child and Family Services (CFS).

History-Part 3: The house survived intact for almost 90 years and had just three owners. But its most difficult times were ahead. Child and Family Services, now the fourth owner, did their best to care for this grand old home. But operating as a non-profit, it proved to be difficult to maintain a 90 year old Victorian home. Because of poor maintenance since 1966, a major restoration was undertaken in 1981 to save the home. Money came from a variety of sources, including a grant of $1,500 from the City of Ypsilanti, while most of the labor was donated by local residents. Work was completed in 1982 and while the exterior restoration was quite good, a somewhat muddled renovation was undertaken to reconfigure the interior for office space.

Ignoring much of the suggestions and plans from their architect, CFS instead converted the unused basement and attic into office space. In the guest bedroom on the second floor, a circular staircase was installed to the third floor wiping out two closets and chopping up the south guest bedroom. Several original doors were relocated; new doorways were cut on the first and second floor; a new bathroom was installed on the first floor by converting the dining room pantry while the original first floor bathroom was abandoned, and one of the massive original first floor doors was ultimately ruined when it was cut down to size to enclose the hallway on the second floor to meet building codes at the time. Yet, almost immediately after the renovation, the home began to again fall into disrepair from poor maintenance over the next 15 years. Child and Family Services eventually merged into what is today called HelpSource in 1996.

Sadly, in 1997, never truly understanding the significance of Glover House, HelpSource sold the original cast iron bathtub with cherry surround from the second floor, a spectacular sterling silver chandelier in the entryway along with eight other original chandeliers were also sold to buy indoor-outdoor carpet and repair some windows. Several of the fire-place mantels were dislodged at the same time, most likely with the intent of selling them too. Thankfully, due to an out-cry from neighbors and city officials, disassembly of the interior was halted. Five smaller chandeliers that were removed and placed in storage were recovered when the house was sold in 2000. Maggie Brandt and Steve Pierce purchased Glover House in February 2000 and an extensive restoration was begun in November 2001 with the plan to convert the home back to a private residence. Most of the changes done by CFS were undone. A new kitchen was installed and permission was granted by the Historic District to add an attached mudroom and garage. One year later on Thanksgiving Day 2002, Maggie and Steve moved into their new home.

The following summer Maggie was called to active duty and spent three months serving in the Army in Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan, Steve undertook the entire repainting of the outside of the house. The community was sworn to secrecy and no one was allowed to tell Maggie. Even local newspapers were asked to not report on the progress for fear that someone would have mentioned to Maggie that they saw the house in the newspaper. Maggie never knew what was happening and was told that a new lawn and sprinkler system had been installed. Of course, she was stunned when she saw the newly painted house upon her return in September and she said the colors were perfect.

Today work continues on the Glover House. The restoration of the guest bathroom on the second floor was completed in September 2004 and plans are already in the works to renovate more rooms in the home to include a gym, a reading room, a small office, a sewing room, storage areas, and an irrigation well is to be dug as work begins on the gardens and landscaping.

To learn more about the Glover house and to see the on-going restoration, visit the house on the Web at www.GloverHouse.org.

Photo Caption: The stairway area features quarter sawn Tiger Oak, ornate plaster work and the original stained glass windows.
Photo Caption: Different wood species were used to create distinct themes in each room such as the dining room shown in this picture.
Photo Caption: Parquet floors were used throughout the first floor with each room having a unique pattern.
Photo Caption: Exterior of house exhibits late Victorian period features.